Top 10 Biggest Art Auction Sales of 2012

Blair Pfander
Top 10 Biggest Art Auction Sales of 2012
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We love oggling the glitzy collectibles that go on the auction block each week, but better still is perusing the iconic, museum-level works whose sale prices are roughly equal the GDP of a small nation.
2012 was a record-breaking year for the art world, between the $40 million sale of Jackson Pollack’s “Number 4” (the most one of Pollack’s works has ever fetched), to the Edvard Munch’s “Scream,” which became the world’s most expensive artwork ever to sell at auction at $119 million.
Here, a look at the spendiest pieces that collector’s took home this year.

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$26.4 million, Jean-Michel Basquiat's "Untitled": Basquiat often referred to his abstract, graffiti-style paintings as "ignorant art." This bright acrylic and oil work shows a skeleton fisherman raising a fish from the water. Sold for $26,402,500 in November 2012.

Photo: Christies/Christies

$29.8 million, Francis Bacon's "Untitled (Pope)": This work from Francis Bacon's series of "Pope" paintings is undeniably scary, with the Bishop of Rome sitting on his papal throne, apparently screaming in terror. Sold for $29,762,500 in November 2012.

Photo: Sothebys/Sothebys

$30.1 million, Henry Moore's "Reclining Figure: Festival": Henry Moore's unmistakable abstract bronze statues typically depict human figures. This 6-foot sculpture shows a woman resting on one elbow. Sold for £19,081,250 in February 2012.

Photo: Christies/Christies

$36.9 million, Joan Miro's "Peinture (Etolie Bleue), 1927": Spanish Cattelan artist, Joan Miro, was one of the early figures of the "surrealist" movement. His "Peinture (Etioile Bleue)" is part of the artist's "dream paintings" cycle, and is considered a key turning point in his career. Sold for $36,946,396 in June 2012.

Photo: Sothebys/Sothebys

$33.7 million, Jeff Koons' "Tulips": Jeff Koons' distinctive polished-mirror sculptures are often classified as "neo-pop." This colorful work looks like a bouquet of drooping tulips. Sold for $33,682,500 in November 2012.

Photo: Christies/Christies

$36 million, Jackson Pollock's "Number 4, 1951": Though he dabbled in more formal work, Jackson Pollack is best known for his distinctive "drip" paintings, of which this rare work, "Number 4," set a record for the artist. Sold for $40,402,500 in November 2012.

Photo: Sothebys/Sothebys

$40.4 million, Franz Kline's "Untitled": Early 20th century abstract painter Franz Kline is best known for his slashing, aggressive brushstrokes and simple form. This untitled work evokes the jagged shapes of Japanese calligraphy. Sold for $40,402,500 in November 2012.

Photo: Christies/Christies

$43.8 million, Claude Monet's "Water Lillies": Even totally oblivious museum-goers know a thing or two about Claude Monet, the French impressionist painter that inspired a smattering of wannabes in the mid-19th century. This piece, from Monet's "Water Lilies" series, shows a pond in Giverny, France. Sold for $43,762,500 in November 2012.

Photo: Christies/Christies

$87 million, Mark Rothko's "Orange, Red, Yellow": Russian American painter, Mark Rothko, considered his multi-form paintings to have their own unique "life force." This edition—aptly named "Orange, Red, Yellow"—was meant to be viewed from precisely eighteen inches away. Sold for $86,882,500 in May 2012.

Photo: Christies/Christies

$119.9 million, "The Scream": Sothebys broke records with the sale of the iconic "Scream" by Norwegian painter, Edvard Munch, whose work often depicted dark, psychological and even disturbed subject matter. Sold for $119,922,500 in May 2012.

Photo: Sothebys/Sothebys

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